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Branstad selects 3 new regents

BY ARIANA WITT | FEBRUARY 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Three new incoming members of the state Board of Regents said they’ll make tackling rising tuition a priority during their six-year terms.

Gov. Terry Branstad appointed the three Iowans — Nicole Carroll, Katie Mulholland, and Bruce Rastetter — on Feb. 25. Pending approval from the Iowa Senate, they will begin their terms on May 1.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said he thinks the nominees will pass the Senate.

The newly appointed members agreed college affordability is at the forefront of their concerns.

For Carroll, tuition is No. 1.

“I’m hoping during my term we’re able to work on the issues surrounding tuition not only at higher levels but also at the level of our students,” said Carroll, who currently serves as a court-appointed special advocate for the Iowa Child Advocacy Board.

The appointees, who all hold degrees from Iowa regent universities, will replace Regents Rose Vasquez, Bonnie Campbell, and Michael Gartner.

Rastetter, 54, was Gov. Branstad’s biggest campaign donor, contributing more than $160,000 in 2010. Though his background is more business-oriented, he remains active politically and involved with the state institutions. In 2008, he donated $5 million to the University of Iowa football facilities project.

The UI alumnus said he is looking forward to understanding more clearly how higher education budgets work and money is allocated.

Rastetter started several agricultural companies in Iowa including the Heartland Pork Enterprises and Hawkeye Energy Holdings, where he currently serves as CEO.

During his term, he said, it’s important to tackle the affordability issue. As a “guy who grew up humble” and had to pay for his own college, he said he wants to address the value of education.

“The goal is to have that depth that allows you to be competitive on the market, but in an affordable way,” he said.

In addition to ensuring affordable education, Rastetter said he would also like to work on communication between regents and lawmakers.

“It’s important to try to change the tone that’s existed in recent years, to have the regents reach out to both sides politically and highlight the institutions we have,” he said.

While there has been some criticism over his choosing Rostetter, Branstad noted his experience.

“Bruce’s knowledge he brings from being a CEO in the private sector will be an asset to the board as he works to create strategic plans, monitor progress and approve the budgets of the regents’ institutions,” Branstad said in a statement.

Carroll, 57, served on the K-12 Committee School Board in Carroll, Iowa for 12 years, with the last six as the board president.

During her time as an education administrator, she worked through a number of budget cuts under state legislation, and she said she now feels in a position to deal with the same issues in higher education.

“I’m aware that it’s a very big job, but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said Carroll, who holds a law degree from the UI.

Mulholland, 63, also brings an educational background to the board; she has worked with Iowa education since 1975. She taught in Waterloo and Dubuque and was assistant superintendent in Ottumwa and Dubuque.

As an educator and mother of four graduates — three were in school at the same time — Mulholland said she’s well aware of the rising tuition costs.

Though she and her husband were able to help fund their children’s education, she noted some students don’t have that assistance.

“I know that many students are totally responsible for their education, so I have a lot of thoughts on what is afforable and how you maintain the quality that the students are expecting,” she said.

Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said he’s hopeful the remedy and its new members can remedy tuition costs.

“This might be just the right mix for beginning a new chapter with regents taking their oversight more seriously and finding ways to make every dollar count without passing cuts onto students,” Kaufmann said.


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